MADEIRA BEACH — Unless business owners voluntarily reduce the level of outdoor amplified music, the city may be forced to ban it entirely.
That was the firm message the City Commission delivered during a workshop discussion about continuing noise complaints against the Bamboo Beach Bar & Grille and the Elks Lodge.
"I could put chain-saw muffs on my head and still hear the music. It is terrible, unbelievable," said one resident who lives across the street from the Bamboo bar at 13025 Village Blvd. in John's Pass Village.
Another resident said he lives nearly 200 feet from the outdoor restaurant and bar and can hear the music through his dual-pane windows. "I don't think that is right," he said, complaining particularly about bass sounds. "Some days it's ba-boom, ba-boom. It's an annoying thing."
The residents had one clear message for the commission: Do something to reduce, if not eliminate, the loud music.
The complaints are not the first time the city has had to deal with problems involving amplified music.
In 2007, the then-named Bamboo Beer Garden closed after about 60 years of operation. Over the previous two years, music at the Bamboo prompted repeated noise complaints from area residents.
The Bamboo is open under new management but appears to be generating similar complaints.
"The last place here was run out of business for the same problem," Bamboo owner Alan Crawford said. "We work daily with musicians to keep the music down. I don't want to p--- everybody off. It's not good for business."
Most times, he said, he has only one guitarist singing Sinatra songs and telling jokes.
Over the past year, law enforcement has visited the Elks Club nearly a dozen times and issued two noise violation tickets. The Bamboo Tiki Garden has been ticketed only once, according to city officials.
Last month, the Elks asked the city to add specific decibel levels in its noise ordinance to clarify whether weekend dance music was really too loud.
Music amplifiers were pointed toward the water, resulting in complaints from homeowners who lived up to 1,000 feet away. The Elks Lodge is at 14111 E Parsley Drive in the midst of and across from residential neighborhoods.
Roger Novak, an Elks official, said that because of repeated complaints and city fines, the organization was forced to temporarily cancel outdoor Saturday dances, resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars used to support the club's children's projects and boat parade. Karaoke competitions were also halted.
Last week, Novak reported that newly installed clear plastic panels apparently have reduced the noise problem.
"The simple thing is to turn the music down," said Mayor Pat Shontz, suggesting Crawford install similar noise barriers at the Bamboo.
"What this boils down to is adults being reasonable," said Commissioner Steve Kochick. "We are in a community that can't do loud noise. We are not St. Pete Beach, where (establishments on the beach) can make all the noise you want because it is only waking up the fish.
"If we don't get voluntary compliance, our backs may be against the wall," Kochick warned.
Commissioner Terry Lister also called for the city to "put some teeth" in its noise ordinances, including revoking business licenses for repeated violators.
The city currently prohibits any "loud and raucous" noise that "disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, health, peace or safety of reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities."
Regulations cover sounds heard in homes and a variety of public spaces including parks, streets, schools, churches and public buildings, as well as the source of amplified music.
City Attorney Michael Connolly said sheriff's deputies may be misinterpreting the regulations, believing that any sound heard outside a 50-foot radius of the source is a noise violation.
"The standard isn't whether the complainant can hear the music. It's whether the music is loud and raucous," Connolly said.